Rowdy Americans on July 4th cause trouble in Busan

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Rowdy Americans on July 4th cause trouble in Busan

The American consul in Busan was called in by city authorities Wednesday over the firework mayhem caused by a group of Americans, including soldiers, on the Fourth of July.
 
The Busan Metropolitan Government said in a statement Thursday that Woo Kyoung-ha, the city’s ambassador for international relations, summoned U.S. Consul Aaron Tiffany on the order of Acting Busan Mayor Byeon Sung-wan to express “strong regret” about the incident last Saturday and ask the U.S. Consulate that it doesn't happen again.
 
“Many Americans, including U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea, caused public anxiety on July 4 by shooting firecrackers in Haeundae and roaming around the streets without wearing face masks,” Woo was quoted by the city government as telling the consul.  
 
Woo reportedly urged Tiffany to make sure Americans abide by the city’s social distancing guidelines and wear face masks. A Busan government official said Thursday that Tiffany “agreed” to Woo’s request and replied that the U.S. Consulate would cooperate with the Busan government.
 
According to details released by Busan police, nearly 70 complaints were filed with the police about a group of Americans shooting firecrackers toward buildings and Korean passersby near Gunam-ro of Haeundae District last Saturday night at around 8 p.m.
 
Busan police said it appeared that the Americans were out to celebrate U.S. Independence Day and that many were United States Forces Korea (USFK) soldiers stationed in Osan, Gyeonggi; Gunsan, North Jeolla; and Daegu.
 
Busan police descended on the scene to try and disperse the Americans, but the group members didn’t budge and kept shooting off firecrackers, officers and witnesses told local media.  
 
Only one American soldier in his 20s was arrested after launching a firecracker toward a passerby and then trying to flee. He was taken to a nearby police station and slapped with a 50,000 won ($42) fine on a misdemeanor charge of “causing public anxiety.”
 
No charges were pressed against the other Americans and they were dispersed about two hours later. Police said no one was injured.  
 
A press release issued by the USFK public affairs team Tuesday said it “regrets” the “deeply troubling” behavior of its soldiers and said it “does not represent the strong respect we hold for the Korean people, their culture and regulations.”
 
The USFK said all commanders will take “appropriate action” with service members determined to be involved in the incident.
 
That did not placate a coalition of 13 civic groups, which held a press conference in front of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office Dongbu Branch Wednesday, that urged prosecutors to press serious charges against the Americans and filed a relevant complaint with the office.
 
BY HWANG SUN-YOON, LEE SUNG-EUN   [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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